Weekend meet serves up season-shaping challenges for Alabama women’s tennis

Robert Cortez, Staff Reporter

The Alabama women’s tennis team will begin its 2020 campaign this weekend, Oct. 9-11, in Tuscaloosa against four conference foes: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi State.  

This is the first of three multi-team meets for Alabama this fall season. 

Alabama finished with a 12-6 record this past spring, which began with a 6-0 start. But Alabama could not find a win in its four matches in conference play, making this weekend’s matches all the more crucial. These upcoming matches will judge how much the Crimson Tide has improved from the spring and if its improvements are enough to find a win against a conference opponent. 

Alabama will bring experience to singles play as its top three singles players, graduate student Alba Cortina Pou, senior Moka Ito and sophomore Isabella Harvison, are back on the roster. Cortina Pou, Ito and Harvison combined for a 43-23 record in singles play last season. 

Out of the three Cortina Pou looks to be the No. 1 singles player as she has the most wins (17), and least losses (six). Cortina Pou was named SEC Player of the Week twice last spring, both coming in the month of February, and was named the 2020 SEC women’s tennis scholar-athlete of the year. 

But with Ares Teixido no longer on the roster, Cortina Pou will head into the season with a new doubles partner. Graduate transfer Sydney Riley looks to be a possible doubles partner for Cortina Pou. Riley was part of the No. 1 doubles pairing at Clemson.

Harvison and Ito will come in as the No. 1 doubles pair for Alabama after leading the team last spring with a 13-3 record. Harvison and Ito went 8-2 in its last 10 doubles matches, and they tallied a win against a nationally-ranked opponent and had a 1-1 record in conference play. 

Despite the return of Cortina Pou, Ito, Harvison and the addition of Riley the Alabama roster is young, with four of its nine players on the roster joining as freshmen. How quick the freshman adapt will be pivotal to the success of the team as they compete in a handful of matches. 

Previewing the opponents: 

Florida: In the last three meetings between Florida and Alabama, Florida has won two of the three matches. Florida has outscored Alabama in these matches nine to six. Florida’s last conference tournament championship came in 2016.

Prediction: Florida wins

Georgia: Georgia was ranked No. 7, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), and Alabama did not complete last season as its scheduled match was canceled due to the coronavirus. However, the previous two meets prior to last year were won by the Bulldogs, and the Crimson Tide failed to collect a point in either of these matches. 

Prediction: Georgia wins 

Kentucky: At the point of the season’s cancelation last year, the Wildcats were ranked No. 34, according to ITA rankings. Kentucky and Alabama were able to play its match against each other before the pandemic hit, which resulted in a 4-2 Kentucky win. Alabama and Kentucky have split the two matches prior to last year. Both rosters are composed of a few returning starters and a handful of freshmen. The team whose freshmen adapt faster will have a slight advantage over the opponent.

Prediction: Kentucky wins 

Mississippi State: Mississippi State and Alabama did not compete with each other last season due to the pandemic but have split the previous two matches prior to last year. Both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide have four freshmen on their rosters, but the Crimson Tide’s roster holds more upperclassmen.

Prediction: Alabama wins

Alabama’s first match is at home and scheduled for Friday, Oct. 9.